3 Ways to Navigate Change Using 'The First 90 Days'
Recently recognized as one of Harvard Business Review’s top 21 “Ideas With Impact” for its enduring and timeless relevance, the fundamental principles outlined by Michael Watkins in his international best-sellerThe First 90 Days have application beyond newly onboarded or promoted leaders. Here are three illustrations of how this proven and award-winning approach, trusted by global organizations, can be applied to proactively navigate change and manage transition fatigue.
Manage the Impact of "Organizational Churn"
According to Michael Watkins, at any given moment, people are being onboarded, promoted, and off-boarded as part of the regular churn of human capital in your organization. You may not be in the middle of a career transition, personally, but the cycle of transitions happening around you impacts reporting lines, team structure and dynamics, support networks, and more. Instead of ruing these inevitable changes, consider capitalizing on them. If your manager changes, for example, take the opportunity to help onboard your new boss by supporting their organizational learning and acclimation. If there is a change in your team, take the opportunity to take stock of the team’s dynamics and to consider what roles each team member plays, including your own, and whether existing interdependencies need to be reevaluated or tuned.
Take Stock and Re-Center
Recent events like “The Great Resignation” and “The War On Talent,” compound normal talent flow within organizations. These external fluctuations in the job market dial up organizational churn, undermining culture and stability and, in effect, putting everyone in a state of transition.
There is an opportunity to approach seismic workforce trends as a chance to reset our expectations, take stock, and re-orient ourselves. Like tapping ‘re-center’ on Google Maps, we can view things from different angles and gain new insights by answering questions like: “Am I still on track to achieve the goals I signed on to?” “What new obstacles and opportunities am I encountering and how can I best respond to them?” “What conversations should I be having with my manager in light of the changes I am experiencing?”
In this way, the First 90 Days® framework can act as a compass to help us find new equilibrium in the midst of change, enabling us to assimilate shifts in work caused by digital transformation, artificial intelligence, and hybrid work, with a growth mindset.
For people managers, this “re-centering” can take the form of assisting reports in aligning their goals around newly identified objectives, getting them to consider how the organization’s changing priorities impact success factors and KPIs, as well as how their relative change in position impacts different teams, workgroups, and projects. In this way, The First 90 Days concepts guide us in leading others.
Navigate The Next 90 Days
In these turbulent times, we have an opportunity to reflect and check-in with ourselves on how we are performing in our current role. Leveraging The First 90 Days® framework in evaluating your next 90 days can help you seize on new team composition, a new manager, or a change in remit.
Perhaps there are relationships that you have overlooked and need to nurture, whether above, beside, or beneath you; maybe there are some new early wins you can identify arising from recent organization-wide change mandates; or, it could be that you now have a hybrid as opposed to co-located team, calling on you to adapt the way you meet and engage. By assessing new situations as you would if you were new-to-role, you can approach change as an opportunity as opposed to a hurdle.
The First 90 Days is an inexhaustible source of vital self-reflection in our fast-moving landscape. We have outlined three contexts in which you can leverage this classic for your next 90 days. How will you use it?